COP28 Outcomes: The beginning of the end of fossil fuels

Young woman in a fashionable dress shirt floating in the Ocean. Her eyes are closed and she looks relaxed. Ocean Generation is sharing COP28 outcomes in this article with a focus on Ocean wins.

Everything you need to know about COP28 outcomes.

After a gruelling set of negotiations which dragged on well into the night, a new deal has finally been agreed at the UN climate summit COP28, in Dubai, UAE. 

COP28 outcomes: ‘Fossil fuels’ finally make the cut.

In the face of colossal opposition from the world’s oil producing countries, and despite the highest number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP than ever before, a global consensus has been reached. The world has finally agreed to transition away from fossil fuels.  

For the first time ever, the elephant in the room has been addressed. ‘Fossil fuels’ have made it into the official outcome agreement at COP28.  

Environmentalists celebrate the results of COP28 because for the first time ever, 
‘fossil fuels’ have made it
into the official outcome 
agreement at COP28.  
Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health and Ocean conservation.

This is the biggest step forward for climate since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. And the COP28 agreement signals the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.   

The agreement follows the widespread fury sparked by an earlier draft, which was deemed a “death sentence” by representatives from Pacific Island nations. The new document calls on countries to “contribute to global efforts to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” 

The deal also calls for a tripling of global renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency by 2030. 

Ocean Generation questions if the COP28 outcomes go far enough to fighting the climate crisis. Alone, it won’t keep global temperature rise below 1.5˚C. But it may help the world to get closer to net zero by 2050.

Does the COP28 Agreement go far enough 

Despite the standing ovations as the new COP28 agreement was passed, many nations have criticised the final decision. And there are concerns that it hasn’t gone far enough.

With just six years left until 1.5 degrees becomes inevitable, it’s not the “phase-out” that we had all hoped for.  

Put simply, the language of the text was weaker than many countries wanted.  

There was no mention of coal or methane (the most potent greenhouse gas). A finance path to aid the transition for developing countries was also missing. There was also no request for developed countries to take the lead on the transition away from fossil fuels. This raised further criticisms over the fairness of the deal. 

A ‘litany of loopholes’ scattered within the text provides enough ambiguity for fossil fuel producers to continue ramping up production. Examples include ‘abatement’ (A.K.A CO2 removal); ‘transition fuels’ (A.K.A gas), and ‘fossil fuel subsidies’ to name a few.  

Loopholes in the COP28 agreement text provide ambiguity for fossil fuel producers to continue ramping up production. Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health and Ocean conservation.

This will have devastating consequences. Particularly, for the most vulnerable communities who are already bearing the brunt of the worsening impacts of climate change.  

Opposition to the new deal was voiced by a representative of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The SIDS said: ‘You agreed the deal when we weren’t in the room’. This was meant literally (delegates from SIDS were still discussing their response to the text when it was agreed further down the hall). However, it also reflects that these nations feel overlooked, despite being the hardest hit by climate change.  

Does the COP28 Agreement go far enough 

The agreement alone will not be enough to keep global temperature rise below 1.5˚C. But it may help the world to get closer to net zero by 2050. That’s if individual countries put a rapid transition to green energy at the heart of their new NDCs. 

Here are some reactions from top climate scientists:

“At my lowest points as a climate scientist I did not think I would see a COP agreement that includes wording on the start of transitioning away from fossil fuels in my lifetime.”
– Prof Mary Gagen, Climate scientist, Swansea University  

“The agreement, though inadequate, is an essential and sustained baby step towards the goal of limiting human caused climate change.”
– Prof Richard Allan, Climate scientist, University of Reading 

Rainbow over the Ocean shared by Ocean conservation charity Ocean Generation

How does the Ocean fit into COP28 outcomes?

Multilateralism (alliance between countries to achieve a common goal) connects us all, and so does the Ocean.  

This was recognised during the Nature, Land Use and Ocean’s Day. Countries, non-state actors and other stakeholders came together in support of nature-based Ocean and climate action.

Here are our top three Ocean-wins from COP28: 

  1. The importance of maintaining the health of our Ocean is getting recognised.

    During the Nature, Land Use and Ocean’s Day, 18 countries pledged to implement Sustainable Ocean Plans. These plans are supported by the official launch of Ocean Breakthroughs.  

    These will provide a roadmap for change and aim to catalyse momentum across five key areas. Namely, marine conservation, shipping, aquatic food, coastal tourism, and marine renewables. These contributing countries represent 50% of the world’s coastlines and close to 50% of global Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ’s). 

  2. There’s an increased appreciation that the Ocean can provide solutions for mitigation and adaptation.

    $186 million of new funding was pledged towards investment in nature-based solutions and Ocean-action. The Mangrove breakthrough was also formally endorsed by 21 countries. Its global goal is to protect 15 million hectares of mangroves

  3. And a growing acknowledgement of the need for synergy between climate and biodiversity targets.

    The joint statement on climate, nature and people was signed by 20 countries. It seeks to align action on climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development. It recognises that a healthy Ocean will provide benefits across all three avenues. 
Image of a woman and the Ocean. We cant solve the climate crisis without a healthy Ocean says David Eades, BBC Journalist and presenter. Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health and Ocean conservation.

What happens next?

For world leaders: While the COP28 decisions are not legally binding, Parties (countries) are obliged to act in accordance with the outcomes of this process. It’s time for world leaders to head home and begin delivering on the promises made. Individual countries are required to submit stronger action plans in their next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2025.  

For COP: Fossil fuels have officially entered the global conversation. The work now begins to tighten this language and ensure a fair, equitable and just transition at COP29 in Azerbaijan, and beyond. To ensure a liveable planet and a healthy Ocean, we need a full ‘phase-out’ of fossil fuels before it’s too late. 

For us: Together, we must ride this growing wave of hope and momentum, to continue advocating for stronger Ocean-action.  

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What’s happened on our blue planet since COP27?

Hand reaching out into the Ocean water.

Extreme weather events and temperature records have made headlines more frequently in 2023 than ever.

The transition into an El Niño climate pattern (explained here) compounded by worsening impacts of climate change have resulted in an unstable year of weather patterns.  

This is a trend which is set to intensify in the coming years. 

The more often these events happen, the less headline-worthy they are and instead they simply become part of the norm. As the world turns its attention to climate change at COP28, we must recognise weather events as part of the larger-scale changes that are happening all around us, right now. 

It’s also important to celebrate the key breakthroughs for Ocean-action in 2023 and use these as a foundation to expand our future ambition at COP28 and beyond. 

The more often extreme weather events happen, the less headline-worthy they are and instead they simply become part of the norm.

Timeline of extreme weather events and Ocean wins that have made headlines in 2023: 

Our Ocean regulates global climate and is inextricably linked to these extreme weather events.

How the Ocean is linked to temperature records broken:

Over the course of 2023, we saw the warmest Northern Hemisphere summer on record and the hottest September ever recorded (average global temperature reached +0.66°C and +0.93°C warmer than the 1991-2020 baseline respectively).  

Unsurprisingly, since the Ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat associated with climate change, these broken temperature records were not limited to land.  

The highest ever Ocean surface temperature was recorded in August 2023, as widespread marine heatwaves spread across the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Gulf of Mexico.  

This unprecedented heat stress caused a severe coral bleaching event in the Caribbean, during which the highest warning level alerted to significant coral mortality

September 2023 also saw the lowest mean winter sea ice extent ever observed in the Antarctic, with maximum coverage a shocking 1.03 million km2 below the previous record low. 

Scientists fear that this could mark the beginning of a long-term declining trend.  

Graph of Antarctic Sea Ice Extent in 2023 shared by Ocean Generation.

As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, our Ocean continues to warm.

Warmer water absorbs less carbon dioxide, and the Ocean’s ability to act as a buffer and protect us against rapid temperature change slows.  

How the Ocean links to storms and flooding events:

Weather systems are supercharged by our warming Ocean, as warmer water supplies more moisture and thermal energy to the atmosphere. 

This process drives intensified rainfall and more powerful storm and flooding events. 

For instance, Cyclone Freddy made landfall multiple times across Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar in February 2023, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing millions.

This was the longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded (34 days long), and also broke the record for the most accumulated energy based on wind strength measurements. 

You’ve probably also heard of a phenomenon called ‘El Niño’ which has been linked to many extreme weather events this year.  

The Ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat associated with climate change. Image of a dessert and the Ocean, showing how the Ocean is connect to everything on Earth.

What is the El Niño phenomenon? 

El Niño occurs due to the periodical weakening of trade winds in the Pacific Ocean. This pushes warm surface water towards the west coast of the Americas and drives changes in wind and weather patterns across the globe. 

The surprising impact of wildfires on our Ocean 

Wildfire events are growing in frequency and intensity across the globe, partly driven by rising temperatures, strong winds and drier conditions.  

In a surprising discovery, severe Australian wildfires in 2019-2020 were found to cause abnormal algal blooms in the Southern Ocean, thousands of miles downwind of the flames.  

It is believed that aerosols from the fire, which contain high levels of iron, phosphorous and other minerals, were transported downwind into the Southern Ocean. These minerals, which are usually in low supply in this region, acted as a fertiliser and caused abnormal algal bloom events. 

In a surprising discovery, severe Australian wildfires (2019-2020) caused abnormal algal blooms in the Southern Ocean. Image of wildfires and Ocean corals, showing how the Ocean is connected to everything.

Artificial fertilisation events can disrupt natural nutrient cycling and marine photosynthesis patterns in the Ocean.  

Further clues of these widespread impacts were seen in 2023. Huge wildfires in Canada burned all summer long, releasing persistent aerosol pollution over the Atlantic Ocean. Evidence of this was seen in the skies over parts of the UK in September, where incoming smoke diluted the sunshine, causing the sun to appear lilac in colour.  

Only time will tell the impacts of this year’s events, but it’s clear that wildfires can have far-reaching consequences on underwater ecosystems.  

Ocean wins giving us hope for the future. 

2023 has been a monumental year for Ocean wins. 

This year, we celebrated the agreement of the landmark High Seas Treaty, improved single-use plastic regulations, and the decision to pause deep sea mining among others. This is a sign of the ever-growing Ocean-recognition in local, regional, and global decision making.  

Whale tail breaking out of the Ocean. 2023 was a momentous year for Ocean wins. Ocean Generation is sharing the Ocean wins that happened in 2023 and a timeline of other extreme weather events.

Each Ocean win moves us one step closer to effective Ocean-action, and it does not stop here. At COP28, we need to see continued momentum to protect and safeguard our Ocean into 2024 and beyond.   

Stay up to date with COP28:  

We’re sharing bite-sized COP updates, commitments, and Ocean wins on your favourite social platform.  

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What to expect from COP28

Hand reaching out into the Ocean water.

Everything you need to know: COP28.

It’s almost time for the world to come together once more, at COP28, to discuss our climate change commitments. 

Ahead of this year’s summit, the Global Stocktake provided a useful inventory of current progress toward global climate goals. COP28 will therefore represent an important opportunity for course correction and increased ambition towards Ocean-climate action.   

What is COP all about? 

What is COP? The Conference of Parties is the annual conference and decision-making body for global climate change commitments. Definition of COP on an image of a woman with short hair, walking away from a singular yellow chair on a beach. Shared by Ocean generation in an article about COP28 expectations.

The Conference Of Parties (COP) is an annual conference where the main decision-making for global climate change commitments takes place. 

And when is COP28? COP28 will be held between 30th November – 12th December 2023, at Expo City, Dubai, UAE.  

The formal goals of COP28 are:

  1. Energy and emissions: 

Phase-down demand for, and supply of all fossil fuels, leading to an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels by 2050 (which basically means we’d be free of fossil fuels used and produced without interventions to reduce the greenhouse gasses they emit throughout their life cycle).  

This includes tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements across sectors by 2030.  

  1. Finance 

Ensuring that climate finance is affordable, available, and accessible to developing countries, by delivering the annual investment in climate action needed by 2030.  

  1. Putting nature, people, lives, and livelihoods first: 

Investing in people and nature through the loss and damage fund and encouraging all parties to align climate action with biodiversity targets, since one cannot exist without the other.  

  1. Inclusivity:  

Commitments towards strengthened collaboration with marginalised groups such as women, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, youth, people of determination, subnational actors, and faith-based organisations.  

There is no room for phasing-down the use of fossil fuels in a net zero world. We must phase-out fossil fuels to protect our planet. Quote shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health.

Why is COP28 controversial?

COP28 has received a lot of attention from the media, particularly regarding this year’s COP President’s position within the fossil fuel industry. 

Dr Sultan al-Jaber is the minister of industry and advanced technology for UAE, and the managing director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC Group). 

Concerns have been raised about the impartiality of climate talks and the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists, for whom blocking fossil fuel phase-out is within their economic interest. 

For instance, ADNOC announced a five-year, $150 billion investment in fossil fuel expansion in November 2022.

This is predicted to produce 7.5 billion barrels of oil and gas, 90% of which would have to remain in the ground to meet the International Energy Agency’s net zero emissions scenario. 

How can we spot when climate-dialogue is shifted towards the interests of the fossil fuel industry? 

Decoding climate dialogue – it’s all in the wording: 

When navigating climate conferences, it’s important to understand key terms and phrasing which may open loopholes and derail progress. 

Accurately decoding the dialogue helps us to stay diligent, see past greenwashing and spot false solutions. 

This is particularly important during discussions on topics which divide the crowd.

Two little penguins on ice in the Antarctic. The accompanying wording reads: When navigating climate conferences, it’s important to understand key terms and phrasing which may open loopholes and derail progress. Shared by Ocean Generation as part of their series of everything you need to know about COP.

Here are some key phrases to look out for this year: 

  • Unabated fossil fuels:  

Fossil fuels burned without using technologies to capture the resulting CO2 emissions.

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) 

The relative importance of CCS remains contentious in climate discussions. 

What is CCS?

Carbon capture and storage is a process used to capture the carbon dioxide produced by power generation or industrial activity, transporting it, and storing it deep underground.

The science tells us that while CCS has the potential to play a key role in meeting climate change targets (eg. For heavy industry that’s much harder to decarbonise. And once we reach net zero, it can help tip us back the other way), but it’s not the silver-bullet solution to the current problem. 

Focussing on mobilising CCS instead of simply keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a distraction. It delays the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels that needs to happen. 

  • Phase-down emissions 

There is no room for phasing-down in a net-zero world; we must phase-out.  

The use of the word ‘emissions’ also deliberately omits fossil fuels from final decisions. This ambiguous phrasing provides a loophole for their continued growth and development. 

The focus must therefore be on ‘phasing-out fossil fuels.’ 

Ocean spotlight at COP28: 

Motorised boat on a dry stretch of land that should be water. The words read: Our Ocean is increasingly recognised in global climate dialogue and will take the spotlight at COP28 during the ‘Nature, Land use and Oceans’ thematic day (9th December 2023). This dedicated day aims to support climate-aligned and nature positive use of land and Ocean systems.  

This reflects the increasing focus towards ‘blue ambition’ and the growing recognition that when we protect the Ocean, we also protect ourselves.

Our Ocean is increasingly recognised in global climate dialogue and will take the spotlight at COP28 during the ‘Nature, Land use and Oceans’ thematic day (9th December 2023). This dedicated day aims to support climate-aligned and nature positive use of land and Ocean systems. 

This reflects the increasing focus towards ‘blue ambition’ and the growing recognition that when we protect the Ocean, we also protect ourselves. 

Ocean action is climate action and climate action is Ocean action. 

Ignace Beguin Billecocq, Ocean Lead for UN Climate Change High-Level Champions.
Are the conversations at COP going to cut it? We need action, not promises. Implementation, not good intentions. This article runs down Ocean Generation's expectations for COP28.

Ocean Generation’s hopes and expectations for COP28: 

We will always welcome more commitments to safeguard our Ocean, but this year we want to see promises turn to progress, and ideas turn to action.

This includes:  

  • Decarbonisation across every sector.  

New research suggests that we have less than six years before global warming of 1.5°C is inevitable. Rapid, widespread reduction of CO2 emissions is essential to steer us away from this fate. 

Decarbonisation efforts should seek alternative fuels and port infrastructure for Ocean shipping, enabling technologies to connect new and existing marine-renewable energy to the grid, and strengthened net-zero commitments across fisheries and aquaculture supply chains.  

Opportunities to incentivise emissions reductions within the Ocean-tourism sector should also be considered. 

  • Strengthening of mitigation and adaptation commitments.  

Commitments made in the landmark High Seas Treaty agreement earlier in 2023 must be actioned in climate policies, to meet the goal of protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030. Focus must also be drawn to the remaining 70%, to build progress toward the Ocean we need.  

Further restoration and protection of “blue carbon” ecosystems (such as seagrasses, mangroves, tidal marshes) within exclusive economic zones must be included in national commitments to ensure their sustained benefits (such as carbon sequestration and flood protection).  

  • Mainstreaming Ocean-action.   

Now, more than ever, widespread recognition of our Ocean’s pivotal role in combatting climate change is vital. 

We need increased Ocean-recognition in global climate dialogue, and countries must commit to mainstreaming Ocean-actions into their national commitments.  

These Ocean-climate solutions must be integrated into biodiversity goals since one cannot exist without the other.   

Blue carbon ecosystems reduce impacts of climate change. What are blue carbon ecosystems?   Blue carbon is any carbon stored by the Ocean so blue carbon ecosystems are ecosystems that make that carbon storage in the Ocean possible. Examples include mangrove trees, salt marshes and sea grass meadows.
  • Inclusive and mobilised solutions for all.   

No-one is safe from climate change, so no-one should be left out of forging solutions.

We need full empowerment and collaboration with marginalised groups, especially those that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Community-led marine management should play a central role, and this must be enabled by providing access to critical resources and information.  

Stable and accessible finance flows are needed to provide a healthy Ocean for all.   

  • Filling knowledge gaps in this critical Decade for Ocean Science.  

Strengthening of Ocean-focused research and standardised data sharing is critical to effectively implement and manage Ocean-actions.  

How to stay up to date with all things COP28 

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7 Ocean wins from COP27

Incredible Ocean photo. Waves of the Ocean are in a spiral formation.

Everything you need to know: COP27 outcomes.

COP27 was the third longest COP in history – but what Ocean and planet wins did the global climate summit deliver?

One things was strikingly clear throughout COP27: Climate change has become mainstream.

Global coverage of the biggest climate summit made headlines through the weeks, providing hope or despair, depending on where you looked.  

Planet Earth from space. Text on the image of our blue planet reads: The time for climate action is now. Together for implementation. In this article, Ocean Generation shares what Ocean wins came from COP27 and climate action we can take to look after our blue planet.

What was the biggest win at COP27? 

The push for stronger climate financing measures resulted in the historic outcome of establishing a ‘loss and damage fund’. Although the finer details hadn’t been drafted at the end of the climate conference, this was still the prominent highlight of COP27.

This fund will only be available for developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related disasters. This is a crucial win for small island nations.

What is loss and damage, in the context of climate conversations?

In a COP27 interview, Dr. Kees van der Geest, Senior Migration Expert, United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), explained what loss and damage means in a nutshell: 

“I’ve been working on it [loss and damage] for 10 years. ‘Loss and damage’ is really about situations; where people live in places where the impacts of climate change are so severe that adaptation is no longer possible or feasible. It is not necessarily a future scenario because that is the lived reality for some people now.” 

Read: Here’s an article about the loss and damage fund established at COP27 for further reading.

6 images in a grid presenting various environments on Earth and how climate change impacts us all. Image 1: Two children look out at the Ocean; a rainbow is over the Ocean. Image 2: A dry planet with rocks/ Image 3: A young woman in a business suit running along the beach. Image 4: A green turtle raising its head to the Ocean's waterline. Image 5: An aerial photo of trees; mist is rolling in. Image 6: Hands of a person reaching into dirty drinking water. Text on the image reads climate changes us all.

What was the biggest disappointment of COP27?  

With global warming at 1.1C, COP27 proved that the scientific consensus of limiting warming to 1.5C was not being taken seriously enough. The final decision made no mention of phasing down fossil fuels, except for coal, with the power of fossil fuel delegates tremoring through this decision.  

The IPCC (a kind of survival guide for humanity) stresses that global emissions must decline 45% by 2030. If we want to keep this limit alive, we need to peak global emissions by 2025.

This does not mean that we should just wait until COP28 in hopes of sweeping action.

In every corner of the world, people are rallying together to implement ambitious initiatives and COP27 has also shed light on many positive developments.

For people and the planet. 

And the Ocean!  

Close up photo of the Ocean. Little ripples in the water show how delicate the movement of the Ocean can be be.
In this article about Ocean wins at COP27, Ocean Generation shares outcomes of the worlds biggest climate sumit.

Seven Ocean wins from COP27: 

1. Young people are part of the decision-making progress.

COP27 hosted a Youth and Children Pavilion, marking the first official space for young people at a COP.

Another milestone came from YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, being recognised as stakeholders in designing and implementing climate policies.

2. Enthusiasm for the energy transition.

Despite the disappointment with curbing fossil fuels, the enthusiasm for a just energy transition is undeniable. Renewable energies are here to stay.

Some of the renewable energy transition commitments include:

  • Tanzania updated their NDC to achieve 80% adoption of renewable energies by 2025 (from 60% in 2015).
  • The Just Energy Transition Partnership for Indonesia which launched at the G20 summit, in parallel to COP 27, will secure $20 billion from wealthy economies to scale up renewables like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.
3. The Global Methane Pledge gains momentum.

In the first week of COP27, we shared that 130 countries has joined the Global Methane Pledge. By the end of COP27, that number grew to 150 countries.

4. Decarbonising the shipping industry is a serious priority.

There has been massive mobilisation to curb shipping emissions.

Text quote on an image of a shipping boat out at sea. It reads: "If shipping was a standalone economy, it would be the 10th largest emitter." Quote by President Joe Biden.

Some of the measures include:

  • More countries, ports and companies stated their plans to support the Green Shipping Challenge. Here’s a list of the various announcements made.
  • The EU’s “Fit for 55” package proposal includes the first ever carbon market for shipping and adoption of cleaner fuels.
  • Noteworthy policy recommendation: No one country is responsible for a majority of shipping emissions but a study conducted by Transport & Environment showed that a zero-emission mandate in EU, China, and US could decarbonise 84% of global shipping. 
5. The Ocean is part of the final COP27 cover decision.

In 2022, the Ocean had a seat at climate conversations at COP27.

The importance of Ocean-based climate action was highlighted and the COP27 cover decision emphasised this need and encouraged nations to “blue” their NDC’s.

6. Funds will be made available for early-warning systems.

Vulnerable nations need early-warning systems for adaptation and building resilience. UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced a $3.1 billion plan to support the development of these systems to protect people within the next five years.

7. Spotlight on nature-based Ocean solutions.

We cannot address climate change without considering the Ocean.

As more people realise this, we’re seeing great initiatives that support protecting the Ocean and ensuring its health:

  • The Great Blue Wall Initiative aims to protect marine areas to counteract the effects of climate change and global warming. 
  • Hope for Coral Reefs – Egypt announced protection for the entire Great Fringing Reef in the Red Sea, creating a 2000km marine protected area (MPA).  
  • The Mangrove Breakthrough Alliance aims to secure the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves globally, by 2030, through collective action.  
  • The Convex Seascape Survey is a research programme aiming to provide critical data and insights on the connections between carbon and the Ocean.  

“The Ocean and nature are our greatest allies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as conservation efforts have a “triple bottom line” in that they address economies, communities, and nature.” 

Razan Al Mubarak, President, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 
Image split in two; horizontally. In the top half there is a city skyline representing people. In the bottom image is a coral reef; representing the Ocean. Ocean Generation's brand trust circle is in the center of the image. Ocean Generation is a registered Ocean charity teaching the world about the Ocean and how to live sustainably.

Ocean Generation’s comment on COP27: 

Like any other COP, there is always going to be tension between progress and potential setbacks.

While there will always be room for doing more and better, COP is the only summit where world leaders and multiple stakeholders come together to discuss our environmental impacts and implement solutions.
And without it, the conversations would be more diluted, disjointed, and slow to progress.  

The progress made year on year at COP should translate into hope for all.

The decisions we make in this decade will have long-lasting impacts and we hope the Ocean continues to receive exponentially more importance in COP28’s agenda in 2023.

In the midst of increasing climate-related disasters perpetuated by other crises, hope can be instilled through action. We need the Ocean more than it needs us. So, let’s act now – in whatever position, wherever we are. However big, however small.

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What is the UN High Seas Treaty and why does it matter? 

After two decades, the open Ocean or ‘high seas’ are on its way to being protected.  

On 20th February 2023, the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) resumed negotiations in attempt to agree on a treaty to protect the high seas.

The last negotiations were held in August 2022 and ended without agreement.  

Our Ocean has been under pressure for decades and we cannot ignore the Ocean emergency,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General in a statement, reiterating the need for a treaty that paves the way for a sustainable Ocean. 

What are the “high seas”? 

High seas refer to the vast majority of the Ocean that lies beyond national jurisdictions. This open water is not governed by any one country and covers 64% of the Ocean’s surface. 

Global map showing the extent of exclusive economic zones (EEZ’s) and the high seas. [Extracted from Sumaila et al.]

What does the High Seas Treaty mean for our Ocean 

After an extra day of intense negotiations, IGC president, Rena Lee, Singapore, announced that the United Nations (UN) High Seas Treaty had been agreed.

This was a monumental milestone twenty years in the making.

“The ship has reached the shore!” – IGC President, Rena Lee, Singapore when the High Seas Treaty was accepted in 2023.
[Credit: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis] 

“The ship has reached the shore!”

IGC President, Rena Lee, Singapore.

5 main takeaways from the High Seas Treaty:

Strengthening 30 x 30

This agreement seeks to protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030. This was an outcome from COP 15 (the global biodiversity conference held in Dec, 2022) that will be strengthened with the help of this treaty.  

Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) –

This treaty will provide the legal framework necessary to set up MPA’s as no such framework currently exists.  

Conference of the Parties (COP) –

Establish a COP to ensure accountability on issues like biodiversity and governance.  

Marine Genetic Resources (MGR’s) –

Highlighting the need for processes to share genetic resources like plants and animals for pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, etc.  

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) –

Greater obligations to conduct EIA’s on activities relating to pollution or any potential effects on the marine environment that is unknown or not yet fully understood.  

 Ocean Generation’s Statement on the High Seas Treaty: 

“We are delighted to hear that the UN High Seas Treaty has finally become a reality.  

A healthy Ocean is vital for the survival of all living things, and this is the message we continue to deliver through our work at Ocean Generation. Protecting 30% by 2030 must, however, be seen as a minimum requirement.  

We view this agreement as a starting point. The Ocean is our ally in the fight against climate change and we must stop underestimating its role in our survival. The sooner this treaty is ratified by all countries, the better chance we have of a safe and healthy future for the generations that will follow us.” 


Jo Ruxton MBE 
Founder of Ocean Generation 

We intend to update this article once the final text of the treaty has been published. 

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Plastic Rivers Report: What plastic ends up in the Ocean?

What is the Plastic Rivers Report?

Our Plastic Rivers Report offers practical, evidence-based steps to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

This report aims to improve our understanding of which plastic pollution items end up in rivers and flow into the Ocean most.

It identifies the 10 most prevalent macroplastic items found in European freshwater environments, key actions you can take to tackle plastic pollution, and how businesses and policy makers can support sustainable choices.

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